Piece of chicken found in bread

2015-08-04 09:23
Lyse Comins

Lyse Comins (File)

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FINDING a foreign object in a food product is always a nasty surprise and sows doubt in a customer’s mind about hygiene during the food production process.

But it’s when food companies don’t take swift action to deal with complaints that consumers — who have a right to be informed and to keep food producers vigilant when it comes to food safety — become most annoyed.

Cephas Williams, who previously worked in a bakery as a manager, said he was “disgusted” when his daughter found a foreign object in a loaf of Sasko Premium white bread, which he said appeared to be chicken from an employee’s lunch. Williams took up the issue with Sasko Bakeries.

“This foreign object is not an ingredient, nor was it part of anything in their process, it more resembles a piece of chicken stuck to the loaf as it was baked,” Williams said.

“I tried to contact them via their consumer help line but just got voicemail. I was asked to leave a message, to which I got no response,” he said.

Williams said he e-mailed Sasko but still received no response, until he threatened to report the matter to the media. He said it was only then that staff member Melany Stansfield of Sasko ­Bakeries responded to his complaint, asking for details about the bread and batch number.

“I explained that I worked in a bakery as a manager and understood hygiene/food safety standards and all I wanted to know was if their product was safe and their hygiene standards were up to standard,” he said.

“I clearly stated that I was not interested in any hand-outs which is the norm after the product is picked up.”

Williams sent Stansfield details about the batch and added that he just wanted to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to buy the bread in future. But two weeks passed and he did not receive a response.

“This shoddy behaviour should not go by without being exposed,” Williams complained to me. “As consumers we have a right to purchase products of the highest hygiene and food safety standards but if a company like Sasko chooses to ignore the consumer’s requests and not to respond then they need to be exposed,” he said.

I approached Sasko Bakeries’ holding company Pioneer Foods to find out what had gone wrong with the complaint and how chicken had landed up in the bread.

In an e-mailed response Pioneer Foods said the complaint had not been escalated for “corrective action” because the company had changed its complaints handling service provider and the matter had been first brought to its attention when I escalated it last week.

“During the consumer care service provider handover there was a detailed log of all consumer conversations transferred. The complaint in question was received by our previous service provider but due to a procedural oversight not handed over to the new service provider,” Pioneer Foods said.

As a result, the correct department had not been notified to contact the customer and arrange for the bread to be collected, however, the company had now contacted the customer.

Asked whether the company had received any similar complaints about the batch and to describe food safety procedures to allay Williams’s concerns the company said it applied the “strictest standards and process controls” to ensure food safety and hygiene.

“All our production lines are strictly controlled, closely monitored and regulated by international standards of hygiene and food safety.

“We do not have a history of such foreign objects in our bread but will re-sensitise all employees and enforce compliance through additional search and access control actions. In the absence of a physical sample it is impossible to establish what the foreign object was with certainty, but its presence on the production line hints at a control breakdown.”

Sasko said no other loaves had been affected in the batch nor had they received a similar complaint in the past and added it was investigating the matter and would inform the customer of the outcome.

• Your consumer issues can be e-mailed to consumer@3i.co.za

Read more on:    consumer  |  customer service

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